Africa

Camping with snowsuits in Namibia

We just winged it! It’s probably not the best way to approach a holiday in the desert with a 4 and 6 year old and during the peak tourism season. But that’s how we ‘rolled’ this trip! We landed in Windhoek on a very cold winter’s night and exited the warm and cozy jet cabin, into a brain freezing desert type cold! Our Malawian-accustomed blood seemed to go into a state of semi shock. I could feel my toes curling inwards, scared out of their wits knowing what was coming our way…a camping trip.

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On the plane, I had sat next to a friendly lady who offered free advice about the country. It occurred to me that in the rush of meeting deadlines in Malawi, be it work and homeschooling, I had allowed for very little time to research the country we had just landed in! I was told that the best seafood can be found at the Mug and Bean in Windhoek, a couple hundred kilometers from the coast.  And it was then that I really regretted not having bought a Lonely Planet guide for Namibia at the Johannesburg airport, envisioning our little family lost deep in a maze of sand dunes sucking on drops of dew from Welwitschia plants while waiting to be found!

Wild life sign post

We loaded our heavy bags into a minibus tourist taxi service. We waited for a good 20 minutes for our driver ‘Gert’ to return from paying an airport parking fine before commencing on our journey. In the bus we met a single Belgium backpacker, still hung-over from a farewell party the night before and quite nervous about the journey she was about to embark on…especially about entering the ‘gantsta lands’of Cape Town after her Namibian tour. We spent the 45 minute trip from the airport to Windhoek tipping the tourist about travel in Africa…forgetting that we too were tourists…and quite unprepared tourists at that!!!

We arrived at our B+B late at night. And there before us on a coffee table, lay a pile of pamphlets as well as a map of Namibia with suggested camping sites. We’d booked a fully-equipped double cab van with tents on top. The plan was to drive up to Etosha and then mosey on down either via the Skeleton Coast or down the inland mountainous region from Etosha to the Brandberg Mountain and then on to Swakopmund. We decided to go the mountainous route…

We’ve lived in Malawi for a year now. It’s a highly populated country, with no chance of a private pee in the bush or a stretch of road that is hard not to collide into a bicycle, goat, chicken or cow. So when we threw distance from the city of Windhoek and the vast Namibian landscape began to open up, the surprise and wonder hit me like a child on Christmas day. I felt an instant connection to a foreign lonely land, a land undeniably captivating and beautiful. I knew at once that I’d become a statistic – I’d return; just like over half of Namibia’s tourists do.

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We thought we’d make it to Etosha Park from IMG_5963Windhoek in one day – which is very reasonable, only we left Windhoek at 12pm after spending the morning planning a route and stocking up on food supplies! We got halfway and noticed the sun beginning to dip, casting a golden light over a boundless land. Speeding to our destination would be no good, not with the large numbers of warthog and fury baboon casually crossing the road. We also couldn’t escape the whining in the backseat and the bickering over a single dinky car – whose turn it would be next to scrape the wheels over the windows of our hired car? That’s about when we realized we’d forgotten to pack toys for the 3000 km trip we had only just embarked on. Thankfully, soon after – we spotted a big sign that looked quite smart saying ‘Africat.’ We decided to stop there.

“AfriCat provides an environment for previously non-releasable large carnivores to hone their hunting skills in a 20 000-hectare (50 000 acre) (200km²) nature reserve, on Okonjima. Carnivores learn to become self-sustaining which gives them the opportunity to return to their natural environment.” – Africat Namibia

See Africat Website

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Lucky for us, there was just one camping spot left. Note – try and book ahead if you are planning to stay at these well-known places such as Africat and Etosha Park. August is peak season in Namibia – don’t assume, as we did, there will always be space in a campsite!

We were escorted by the park ranger riding a quad bike to our own private campsite tucked away in the the Omboroko hills overlooking the vast plains of Northern Namibia. We formulated our camp routine, designating duties to certain family members! Basically, mom and dad do everything while the kids race around the campsite like raucous wild animals scaring the pants off any nearby wildlife. My husband would become the tent erector and I would take charge of shower time for the kids. Then we’d start up a fire and cook some meat and potatoes, followed by a beer and wine! And flame-charred marshmallows for the kids – if they ate all their vegetables! It was the first night of our camping road trip…and by far, the coldest!

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Although I had failed hopelessly when it came to doing research prior to the IMG_5978trip – I can say I was organized in other areas! For instance – I’d heard it gets pretty chilly in the desert at night and having a family that is well adapted to a hot climate, I knew being cold at night would be a monumental crisis! So I came with snow suits! Of all places, I bought them at the ‘Bend-down and Scratch Boutique Markets’ in Malawi. (All you folk from Denmark, Norway and Sweden – I’d just like to thank you for your clothing donations – all your winter gear comes to one of the hottest countries I’ve lived in and it’s good to know that snow suits in the desert were very handy!) That night there was heavy snowfall in neighbouring South Africa and outside our tent, the temperature was an almost freezing 4 degrees – which is much like sending an African to sleep in an igloo!

The next morning, we rose early…mostly because we were bloody freezing and secondly, Etosha Park was calling.

We brewed a couple mugs of coffee on the fire and watched a spectacular sunrise, marking the beginning of many, many breath taking moments. We folded the tents up, loaded the kids, pumped up the heater and set off – thawing slowly and heading north to warmer territory!

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3 hours later we arrived at Anderson’s Gate in Etosha Park. The gate guard asked us ‘where in the park have you booked?’

‘Nowhere’, we said, ‘but I’m sure we’ll find somewhere!’

Namibian Sunrise

” The seeker embarks on a journey to find what he wants and discovers, along the way, what he needs.” – Wally Lamb

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14 replies »

  1. Brought back lovely memories of Namibia, though I was on a small tour, not being into the camping experience on the top of a car. :). What month were you there? I was there last August and the nights were quite chilly, though the days were lovely.

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    • Hi Marie 🙂 We were there in August. There was a particularly chilly spell when we got there, in fact we were absolutely bloody freezing! But thankfully as we headed north, the temperature became more familiar! I’m hoping to get cracking on a few Namibian posts shortly – hope they bring back some more good memories! Namibia is a spectacular country!

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  2. What a fun trip! I know it’s better to prepare ahead of time, but when you can’t, you can’t, and that’s no reason to stress or not go! I’m glad you’re having a good time!

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    • Thanks Jess 🙂 While I usually like to be a little more prepared for a trip – it kind of felt like we’d revisited the old backpacking days…with no plan! Only this time there were kids! I suppose having a tent on top of our roof, as well as a well stocked fridge and plenty water – made the ‘arrive with no plan’ a little less daunting!

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  3. Are you guys driving through the hoanib? It’s just west of etosha and you pop out close to sesfontein? Great story so far! My wife and I and some mates did a trip, last year, 3 kids included and it was the best holiday I had been on in a long time!

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    • Hey Leighton 🙂 We did the trip about a month and a half ago and my goodness, it has knocked the socks off me! We didn’t get up to Sesfontein/Hoanib…although contemplated winging it up there from Palmweg for a day or two! We did the Grooteberg pass then headed south. In some ways, the trip was a little frustrating! Like dangling a carrot in front of us… There is so much to see and explore and our trip was a mere 12 days long, just not enough. But we are going back without a doubt and particularly want to explore that area 🙂

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  4. Well done, Namibia for me, is just the best place ever!!! In June the year I chose to celebrate my 60th drifting around the stunning country. I’ve also done the just arrive at Etosha Anderson gate, in faith that there would be a camp site waiting for me!!! And of course there was. I look forward to hearing more about your trip, the first week of April next year i’ll go drifting around Namibia again.

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    • Thanks Trish 🙂 I’m totally hooked on Namibia and still wonder to myself how it is that I have never prioritised Namibia as a place to visit until now! Etosha – wow, wow, wow! Possibly one of the most dramatic landscapes I have seen and out of this world game viewing! I’ll be very interested to hear what it’s like in April after the rainy season, if they are lucky enough to get one this year! (Rainy season – if we can even call it that!)

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